David Carroll says writing a column some years ago about all the people who performed at McKenzie Arena at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga seemed like a fairly simple and straightforward idea, and for the most part it was.
He said Ken Kapelinski, then general manager of the arena, kept great records.
Carroll, best known as anchor and on-air personality at WRCB-TV 3, is also an author who has written “Volunteer Bama Dawg” about the football crazy South and “Chattanooga Radio and TV”about the many personalities who have been broadcasters in the area.
His latest book, “Hello, Chattanooga! Famous People Who Have Visited the Tennessee Valley” is a case in point. Like the arena list, it started with a simple suggestion or idea.
“You should do the same for Memorial Auditorium, somebody said,” Carroll said.
Once Carroll started really digging, the book’s scope mushroomed with each passing day. Why limit it to just the auditorium? Why not include acts who played The Tivoli, or Riverbend, for that matter.
“The deeper I got into it, I decided it should be a complete history that includes all of our famous visitors, with some stories and pictures mixed in. So I included all our area stages and venues, indoors and outdoors, plus every notable politician, president, movie star, athlete, author, military figure and evangelist, plus a listing of the movies and music videos that have been filmed here.”
He also stumbled across some ledger books at Memorial Auditorium with lists of performers that proved helpful. Four years later, Carroll has written “Hello, Chattanooga.” It is an exhaustive chronicle of all the famous people he could confirm ever visited the area.
The 700-page book features almost 200 photos, more than 100 years of history and a full index that makes it easy to help track down whether Tammy Wynette did indeed play Lake Winnie, or if that story about Winston Churchill slamming the door of his Read House hotel room in the face of a newspaper reporter is true.
The book has hundreds of such references, but of course, “I’ve already heard from some people about people I left out. Like Golda Meir.”
The Israeli leader visited in 1943 as a young woman.
Carroll said he did much of the research via the Chattanooga Library, but also by tracking down leads from former reporters and civic leaders who might have been involved in bringing famous people to town for parties or corporate events.
He also said if he couldn’t confirm a person had been here, “it didn’t get in the book.”
“I had several people tell me Carol Burnett used to visit The Read House regularly, but I finally contacted her myself and she couldn’t ever remember coming here, so it’s not in there.”
The book lists visitors from each category in chronological order, beginning in 1900, continuing to the present day.
The book also mentions local residents who have achieved national and worldwide fame in all fields, including political figures like the late Sens. Bill Brock and Estes Kefauver, athletes such as Rick Honeycutt and Reggie White and entertainers from Samuel L. Jackson to Usher to Kane Brown.
You’ll also recognize names like Frank Sinatra, Billy Graham, Jimi Hendrix and John Goodman. They’ve all been here.
Some, such as Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Jeff Foxworthy, Kenny Chesney and Taylor Swift were here as opening acts.
“Hello, Chattanooga: Famous People Who Have Visited the Tennessee Valley” is available in softcover ($29.95) and hardback ($39.95), with signed copies at ChattanoogaRadioTV.com, or at Amazon and most bookstores. It is published by Fresh Ink Group.
In addtion to his WRCB anchor duties, Carroll hosts the weekend Vinyl Express radio show on “Big” 106.9 FM and writes a weekly column for 47 newspapers and his website ChattanoogaRadioTV.com.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.
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